Church of Ireland rejects proposal for unrestricted abortion in first trimester of pregnancy

The Church of Ireland has rejected a proposal to allow unrestricted abortion in the first trimester of a pregnancy, maintaining its stance that such a procedure is unacceptable at any stage of gestation.

(REUTERS / Clodagh Kilcoyne)Demonstrators hold posters as they march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland. September 30, 2017.

In a statement made on Feb. 5, the Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson acknowledged the dilemma that legislators and medical practitioners are confronted with on the issue of a first trimester abortion. The two said they were in favor of modifying the Eighth Amendment to allow abortion but "within clearly defined boundaries" only, The Irish Times relayed.

"However, unrestricted access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or indeed at any stage, is not an ethical position we can accept," said Clarke and Jackson in the statement.

The latest development means that Ireland's four main churches are against the Oireachtas Committee's recommendation to allow abortion up to 12 weeks "with no restriction." The Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the Methodist Church have already previously expressed their opposition to the proposal.

The Church of Ireland said it had already considered abortion as justifiable in cases where a woman's life was in grave danger. It acknowledged that there were some who consider the procedure justified when the pregnancy is a result of a sexual crime or if a fetal abnormality had been ascertained medically.

Meanwhile, abortion service provider Marie Stopes has indicated that it may open a clinic in Ireland if the Eighth Amendment is repealed during a referendum on the issue in May. However, the organization will reportedly not express a formal interest in doing so until it has confirmed that the law will indeed be changed, The Irish Sun has learned.

At present, Marie Stopes runs 70 facilities in England. It had already closed its clinic in Belfast in December but gives women travelling from Ireland information if they want to avail of the organization's abortion services without approval from a general practitioner.